There are very few things as personal as parenting. I consider myself a pretty laid back, self-assured individual, but I've spent plenty of moments curled up in the fetal position on my bathroom floor, crying while simultaneously wondering if I'm doing this whole motherhood thing right. When I'm being judged or shamed or ridiculed, I take it personally. I mean, it's difficult not to. That's probably why there are so many reasons why it's not worth being friends with someone with a different parenting style. Friendships are important and valuable and meaningful, but so are the parenting choices we make on a daily basis and, well, when we're toe-to-toe with someone who makes juxtaposing ones, we can't help but take it personal.
I'm definitely not saying that you can't be friends with someone who parents differently than you. In fact, there are so many awesome and helpful things you can learn from parents who makes varying choices. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's important to evaluate those friendships to ensure that you two are supportive and secure and inclusive enough, to truly value a difference of parenting opinion, instead of harbor resentment and start doubting one another and, well, inevitably end up feeling hurt by a friend who is just trying to do what you're trying to do: parent their kid to the best of their ability. I've been lucky enough to have some pretty damn supportive friends, but I've associated myself with friends of friends who parent differently than I do and, well, that didn't end well. Like, at all.
Differences are awesome and I think parents can learn from one another when they listen and observe, but when that situation becomes toxic or hurtful, it's time to cut the chord and go your separate ways. Just like any other friendship, sometimes your friendship with other moms has an expiration date and, well, that is OK. Sad, but OK. So, with that in mind, here are a few reasons why being friends with someone who parents differently than you do, might not necessarily be worth it:
You Don't Need To Feel Like You're Part Of Some Unsaid Competition...
Not all friends experience this unsaid "competition" between them, but plenty do. When one friend is doing well or experiencing some sort of success in one particular area of their life, the other friend starts to feel the urge to one-up, instead of the urge to support and celebrate. I mean, we're human, and when our friends do well we can't help but use it as a mirror from which to examine our entire lives. So, if you're friends with someone who does parenting differently than you, it might be way too easy to fall into this "silent competition mode" and want to "do better" than one another in order to somehow prove a point. Like I said, we're human.
...Because We All Want To Be Doing The "Right" Thing
And honestly, that competition does stem from some of the best intentions. I don't think it's about proving someone "wrong" or looking better than anyone, I think it's from wanting to feel validated in our own parenting choices and wanting to make sure that we really are doing what is best for our kids. Sometimes, unfortunately, that want and need evolves into measuring our parenting choices against everyone else's. Is it right? Meh, probably not. Is it human nature? Yup.
There's Too Much Room For Judgment And Shame
We can surround ourselves with parents who make different choices than us and we can do so with the best of intentions, but that sure does open ourselves (and others) up to a lot of shame and judgment, even when it isn't intentional. Even a raised eyebrow can end up hurting someone's feelings.
You Don't Need To Spend Your Time Debating Who Is "Right"
There are small variations of certain parenting decisions that, honestly, you probably won't notice between two friends who make different choices. There are others, however, that are so different and cause so much debate, that you might find yourself spending time with your friend arguing, instead of enjoying one another's company. Breastfeeding vs bottle feeding and co-sleeping vs sleep training and baby wearing vs strollers and helicopter parenting vs free-range; I mean, it's never-ending and when you're around one another making these different decisions, a debate is highly likely.
Surrounding Yourself With Parents Who Parent Differently Could Leave You Doubting Yourself
Even the most self-assured of parents will end up doubting themselves a time or two (or twelve). I mean, when our entire goal is to keep a tiny human safe and raise them to be kind and self-sufficient and happy, it's hard not to constantly examine your decisions to make sure they're the best ones. When you're around someone who is making different choices, and you see those choices working, you can end up losing sight of the fact that their kid is just different (so different parenting techniques will work for them) and start doubting your own instincts or your own decisions. Can you learn from other parents? Of course, but in the end, you and only you know what is best for your kid and your family and, well, you.
Eventually You'll Disagree...
It's inevitable, and that disagreement (because it's about parenting and children) can be catastrophic. One blow up and your friendship might end in a way that isn't indicitive of the time you two have spent together, and the relationship you two had. Sometimes, it's best to walk away before that gigantic disagreement eventually happens.
...Especially When Kids Go To One Another's Houses, And Things Are Very Different
I've thought about this scenario more than I care to admit. While most of my friends don't have children (and the ones that do are very far away, which is pretty sad) I wonder what will happen when my son is old enough to go to a friend's house without me, and their rules are vastly different than my own. How will that play out? Will I be comfortable letting my kid be around parents who do things so differently that my kid is exposed to something I wouldn't want him to be? The answer is, well, probably not.
Fighting With A Friend Who Parents Differently Is Just The Worst
Any argument with a friend is horrible, but when you're talking about something as important and personal as parenting, that argument can feel like a presidential debate gone awry.
Honestly, We're Not Really "In This Together..."
I love this sentiment and understand the feelings behind it, but we're not really "all in this together." We can't be. Our children are different and our backgrounds are different and unless someone is coming over to my house every day and staying the night to help when my son has a nightmare and is making these decisions with me and is worrying in the very specific way that I tend to worry, they're not really "in it" the way I am. Do we want to support one another? Of course. Do we want to feel like we're part of an inclusive parenting community? Definitely. But are we truly raising all of our children together? Not so much, and that's OK.
...Because We All Have Different Backgrounds And Are Responsible For Different Kids
We're all so unique and have lived such different lives that will (and do), inevitably, shape how we parent, so it's impossible to say we're really in it "together." Our children are so different that, honestly, a wide variety of parenting choices and decisions and techniques are necessary. Unfortunately, that necessity gets overlooked when we start comparing ourselves to others; an inevitably of being, you know, human.
Sometimes, It's Best To Find "Your People"
I'm all for branching out and being diverse and surrounding yourself with different people, but I also think it's important to "find your tribe" and feel like you belong to like-minded people.
Forcing A Friendship To Work When It Clearly Won't And/Or Is Toxic, Isn't Healthy...
Unfortunately, I have tried to force friendships that, really and truly, should have ended years before they actually did. There's no reason to continue to put yourself in an uncomfortable position or surround yourself with people who don't support you (or who you can't seem to support, either) all in the name of friendship. It's not healthy to stay in a toxic friendship so, if you find yourself in one, it's best to say your goodbyes.
...And Some People Aren't Meant To Be In Our Lives Forever
I think we have an unrealistic idea of friendship. Thanks to television and movies and society in general, we want to keep people in our lives forever because, well, "forever" means friendship. That just isn't true, though. People change and lives evolve and mindsets switch and someone that you once saw eye-to-eye with, can be someone you now passionately disagree with. Someone you once loved can end up being someone you don't even remotely like. I don't think there's anything wrong with that; some people aren't mean to stay in your life forever. They're meant to be there for a moment, help shape who you're meant to become or help you learn a lesson or help you make some really awesome memories, and then go about their lives in a different direction than you go about yours. It doesn't make your friendship any less meaningful, it just means you two value your friendship enough to realize when it has ended.